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FLASH #66 & #67

[ RUN FOR YOUR WIFE
There once was a villain called James, who had a habit of playing board games. So what did he do? He didn’t have a clue. Until he spent the whole night with some Dames! Want to know more? Then please ignore the following adventure created by Joshua Williamson, Scott Kolins, and published by DC Comics in April, 2019.

TO QUOTE Verbal Kint:The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist’.

THE REVIEW:
Throughout the years, a lot of different people have said a lot of different things about James Jesse, otherwise known as The Trickster. His parents, for instance, have always called him an ungrateful, spoilt brat, because he ran away from the circus and turned his back on the life of a trapeze artist. Whereas The Flash, on the other hand, has always called him a villain, a rogue, and an old adversary who’s very predictable to figure out!

Well, let’s face it, most of his crimes are pretty predictable, in part, which is why he was slappednabbed, and sent off to prison, only to start seeing the error of his ways. Or to be more specific about it, how he could improve himself so nobody could ever push him around again! Not Gregory Wolfe (the warden of Iron Heights). Not Axel Walker (the brat that usurped his mantle). And of course, definitely not anyone in a position of authority! Come to think of it, he was so adamant that nobody was going to bully him anymore; he actually escaped from jail and decided to make everybody happy.

Yes. That’s correct. I said happy, with a capital ‘H’, including the police, the thieves, the civilians, and everybody else living nearby.  Well, that’s everybody except for Barry Allen, of course, because Barry now wants to find out who's kidnapped Commander Cold and turned everyone into a smiling sap. Want to know more? Then please pick up issue 66 and 67 of The Flash today. In the meantime though, here, check this out… 

Part One) OR I GIN:   If truth be told, I’ve always been a big fan of origin stories because they’re usually intimate in tone, direct by design, and pretty popular compared to some of the other genres out there. In fact, they’ve become so damn popular, you can always see one whenever you turn on the TV, normally inside a true crime documentary, a personal news story, or even a soap opera styled dramatization. Although, I say this while keeping in mind that a good origin -- emphasis on good -- can only work when it features characters we can all relate to and empathize with. Otherwise, why bother worrying about their exploits or caring about their plights?

Now, to illustrate what I mean, I’d like to draw your attention to issue 66 of The Flash, featuring the life and times of James Jesse. On the one hand, it depicted him as being a nice, pleasant person, who we can sympathize with because he’s constantly being repressed by his parents, his peers, and those in a position of power. While, on the other hand, certain parts of James’s origin aesthetically felt false, trite even, including the style of his story (very 60s), the tone of his supporting cast (very one-dimensional), as well as the brash inflection of his abilities (abilities that enable him to outsmart people or create hyper-realistic contraptions). All of which explains why I wasn’t too sure about this episode! Not totally, anyway, because even though some of these superficial traits were mildly difficult to swallow, I could still connect with many of his more charming qualities, like his determination and down-to-earth nature. 

Funnily enough, this last point brings me quite nicely onto the artwork vividly illustrated by Scott Kolins. Well, with all due respect, as much as I can appreciate Scott’s style of art, which is bold by design and sharp in stature, there’s a part of me that can’t help but wonder why he’s always the go-to-guy to draw members of The Flash’s Rogues Gallery? Not that this is a bad thing, mind you, as his work is always consistent, atmospheric, and full of personality. But that aside, sometimes I can’t help but question why DC keeps on wheeling him out whenever a Flash comic focuses on a Rogue! Could it be a financial thing perhaps? Or is he destined to do it by association alone? (due to his vast track record)  Either way, I’m happy to see that he’s still around, touch wood, yet I would like this query answered one of these days. 

Part Two) PLOP:   If you’ve ever walked in on somebody while they were having a dump (excuse the visual imagery), then I’m sure that you will agree with me when I say that the overall experience can be a rather embarrassing, alarming, and comical one to witness. Similar, in fact, to some of the emotions featured in issue 67 of The Flash. 

No! Don't worry. I haven't lost my marbles. Not yet, anyway. But if you bear with me for a short while, I will explain what I actually mean by this. You see, in fairly simple terms, the main brunt of the narrative -- two thirds, at least -- revolves around Barry Allen trying to find out what has happened to Commander Cold (alarming), all the while encountering a number of people that appear to be consistently happy and cheerful (comical), regardless of what they’re currently doing (embarrassing). This ranges from the inmates and guards who populate Iron Heights Penitentiary, to the investigators and the CSIs who work at the Crime Lab, all the way to the detectives and police officers who are stationed at the Central City Police Department (although, in their case, having a low crime rate is something worth smiling about).

Please note, though, that before we get to this part of the plot, we're presented with a seven-page introductory sequence where Barry tries to stop a cult leader who worships death, death, and even more death, while reminiscing about so many different topics I kind of forgot James Jesse was going to feature in this adventure. Topics that include Barry's sudden split from Wally's Aunt Iris, the gradual loss of his powers, his argument with Batman, the massacre at Gorilla City, as well as him wanting to track down Hunter Zolomon, otherwise known as Zoom. As a matter of fact, so much of this sequence was dedicated to these internal musings, the general narrative kind of shifted focus to other stories in other adventures published elsewhere.

But then, when James did turn up, and it was suddenly revealed that he’s Detective Kristen Kramer’s secret boyfriend, GASP!, everything started to click into place, big time, due to the realization that he’s somehow behind this ‘plague of pleasantness’.  A plague, I hasten to add, that is rather embarrassing, alarming, and comical to witness.

I wonder how he’s doing this though? This happy-sappy thing I mean! Has he magically poisoned the populous with some type of gas or toxin? Or alternatively, is he holding them all to ransom via a secret scheme he set up while Barry was away? A scheme that must somehow be connected to the abduction of Commander Cold!  Also, why can’t Barry remember James? (considering they’ve already met many times before) And why isn’t anyone concerned, or at least, slightly suspicious, as to the sudden drop in crime? In any event, it would be interesting to find out how this all came about, and I’m sure Joshua Williamson will be able to intrigue us more than he has already.

So, what do you think, dear reader?  How do you feel about this first part of ‘The Greatest Trick of All’? Personally, I’m sitting on the fence at the moment, because I liked its direction, its tone, and its pace, but I disliked some of its more overt and staged qualities (Warden Wolfe smiling, aaaaaahhhh!!!). Whatever the case, I’m sure the best is yet to come.

THE MUSIC:
To some extent, you could easily sum up the entirety of issue 67 by listening to the Bobby McFerrin song, ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’, albeit for fairly obvious reasons. 




THE COMPARISON:
Yes. That’s correct, dear reader. I’m now going to compare these two episodes to a magic kit. Once again, all for fairly obvious reasons.

Tap-Tap-Tap! Abracadabra, Alakazam, comparison made. 

THE CONCLUSION:
At the end of issue 67, Detective Burns turns to Barry Allen and says to him, what? What does she say? Could it be something like…

  1. We want you to be friends with Batman.
  2. We want you to strip naked.
  3. We want you to pee into this cup.
  4. We want you to be happy too.
  5. We want you to buy car insurance.
  6. We want you to be gay.
  7. We want you to sing a song in Norwegian.
  8. We want you to break-dance.

Nuff said. 

FLASH #66 & #67 FLASH #66 & #67 Reviewed by David Andrews on April 22, 2019 Rating: 5

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